The owner of an inflatable trampoline which exploded and killed a three-year-old girl in Gorleston has been jailed.

Ava-May Littleboy, from Lower Somersham in Suffolk, was thrown into the air on July 1, 2018, when the equipment failed, with a witness saying she went the “height of a house”, Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard.

Pascal Bates for Great Yarmouth Borough Council, which brought the prosecution together with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said the toddler suffered serious head injuries.

He said witnesses described her being thrown up to 40ft in the air, with one saying she went “higher than the surrounding buildings”.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: The incident happened on Gorleston beach in 2018The incident happened on Gorleston beach in 2018 (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Bates said that a second girl, aged nine, who had been on the trampoline suffered “no significant injuries”.

District judge Christopher Williams, sentencing on Friday, said inflatable owner Curt Johnson was “wilfully blind to the risk” and that the inflatable “should not have been in use”.

He said: “This is a case that’s of such seriousness that I have to conclude a deterrent sentence is necessary.”

The judge, jailing Johnson for six months, said: “I reflect on the suffering and anguish the family have been through.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Witnesses described seeing Ava-May being thrown up to 40ft in the airWitnesses described seeing Ava-May being thrown up to 40ft in the air (Image: Newsquest)

“Ultimately a child unnecessarily lost their life because of failures on your part to ensure you had appropriate risk assessments in place.”

Ava-May’s parents, who sat in the public gallery, hugged after the sentence was passed as wider members of the family wiped tears from their eyes.

In a tribute, Ava-May’s mother said a family tradition is now to spend Ava-May’s birthday at her bench in the local park.

Chloe Littleboy said: “Birthdays are always at her bench in the park.

"Balloons, flowers, cakes and sweets decorate it and the whole family go there together to celebrate.

"That’s now the family ‘thing’, spending her birthday, Christmas and the anniversary of her death all together."

Great Yarmouth Mercury: The inflatable should not have been in use according to the judgeThe inflatable should not have been in use according to the judge (Image: Newsquest)

Nathan Rowe, Ava-May’s father, added: “It’s amazing as a parent that so many people care about your child.

"It’s surprising how one little girl had impacted on so many lives. I read her eulogy and it was my one and only chance to pay tribute to her and her short life. I don’t know of another father who’s had to do this."

Johnson, 52, showed no reaction as he was led to the cells.

The judge also disqualified Johnson from being a company director for five years and fined Johnsons Funfair Ltd £20,000.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Nathan Rowe and Chloe Littleboy with their daughter Ava-MayNathan Rowe and Chloe Littleboy with their daughter Ava-May (Image: Nathan Rowe)

Mr Bates said the inflatable trampoline was a “sealed unit” but “had no safety valve to release pressure”.

“A child who’s ever got over-enthusiastic with a party balloon knows if you put too much air into a sealed unit, sooner or later it will pop,” he said.

Mr Bates said that in 2017 Johnson, on behalf of the company, arranged the bespoke manufacture of the inflatable trampoline from a Chinese manufacturer.

“It’s common ground he negotiated hard on price and he had an eye to whether the inflatable he was supplied with was of suitable quality and durability,” he said.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Ava-May’s parents hugged after Johnson's sentence was passedAva-May’s parents hugged after Johnson's sentence was passed (Image: Newsquest)

“We say he didn’t to any great extent concern himself with safety.”

Mr Bates said a user’s manual “was never supplied or sought prior to the explosion”.

He said the business “didn’t meaningfully trade after July 1”, the day of the incident, with its licences pulled and the beach compound not reopening.

“He apologises sincerely to the court and the family for his failings,” he said, adding that the company “ceased trading some time ago and will not trade again”.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Tributes poured in for three-year-old Ava-May on Gorleston beachfront Tributes poured in for three-year-old Ava-May on Gorleston beachfront (Image: Newsquest)

Oliver Campbell KC, for Johnson, said that Johnson and his wife “deeply regret” the incident and Ava-May’s “tragic death”.

Mr Campbell said that “despite the length of the investigation we do not know exactly how or why this trampoline so sadly exploded”.

He described the explosion as “unforeseeable”, adding that the “possibility of an explosion was not a recognised risk”.

He said that Johnson tried to kill himself by overdose in 2018, “has suffered from depression thereafter” and had received threats.

After Johnson was jailed, Mr Campbell said he would take instructions on whether the defendant would appeal against the sentence.